Buying a TV Capture card (pinnacle, hauppauge: wincast, pvr, etc)

Jacob Meuser jakemsr at
Tue Dec 6 21:12:30 PST 2005

On Tue, Dec 06, 2005 at 01:44:18PM -0200, Mario Sergio Fujikawa Ferreira wrote:
> Hi,
> 	I am considering acquiring a tv capture card in order to
> build a personal PVR system. Besides helping me test the video
> capture support of some ports I maintain.
> 	Well, some info on my system
> $ uname -a
> FreeBSD 5.4-STABLE FreeBSD 5.4-STABLE #3: Sun Nov 27 16:31:18 BRST 2005     lioux at exxodus:/usr/obj/usr/src/sys/LIOUX  i386
> CPU: AMD Athlon(tm) XP 2500+ (1925.01-MHz 686-class CPU)
>   Origin = "AuthenticAMD"  Id = 0x6a0  Stepping = 0
>   AMD Features=0xc0400000<AMIE,DSP,3DNow!>
> $ mplayer -V 
> MPlayer 1.0pre7try2-3.4.5 (C) 2000-2005 MPlayer Team
> $ ls /var/db/pkg|grep mplayer-gtk
> mplayer-gtk-0.99.7_6
> 	I currently own the following card which has a suboptimal
> video capture quality (read VHS heavily used old tape quality).
> bktr0: <BrookTree 878> mem 0xfd9fe000-0xfd9fefff irq 19 at device 7.0 on pci0
> smbus0: <System Management Bus> on bktr0
> smb0: <SMBus generic I/O> on smbus0
> iicbb0: <I2C bit-banging driver> on bktr0
> iicbus0: <Philips I2C bus> on iicbb0 master-only
> iicsmb0: <SMBus over I2C bridge> on iicbus0
> smbus1: <System Management Bus> on iicsmb0
> smb1: <SMBus generic I/O> on smbus1
> bktr0: Hauppauge Model 44001 C110
> bktr0: Hauppauge WinCast/TV
> 	A sample of my current setup can be seen at
> $ mencoder -tv driver=bsdbt848:width=768:height=576:norm=ntsc \
> 	-ovc lavc -lavcopts vcodec=mpeg4:vbitrate=3800:vratetol=1000:vhq:v4mv:keyint=250 \
> 	-oac mp3lame -lameopts cbr:br=128 \
> 	-vf crop=744:558,pp=lb/dr,scale=512:384 -sws 2 \
> 	-o samplehq.avi tv:// -tv input=0 -endpos 900
> $ mencoder -tv driver=bsdbt848:noaudio:width=768:height=576:input=0:norm=ntsc tv:// \
>         -cache 131072 \
>         -o output.avi -ovc lavc -lavcopts vcodec=mpeg4:vbitrate=3800:vratetol=1000:vhq:v4mv:keyint=250 \
>         -force-avi-aspect 1.333333333333
> 	The things I want to improve from the above samples: remove
> the image stuttering and reduce (even remove) the image noise.
> Hopefully achieving good enough quality that they look as crisp as
> the quality I have watching tv. I have SKY sattelite cable and I
> am using SVideo. Crisp quality will allow me to judge whether the
> ports I maintain are doing fine.

IMO, mplayer/mencoder should not be used to judge image quality
or performance of bktr(4).  I get stutter from those programs that I
don't get from other programs.  and they do some video processing
instead of direct display.

IMO, and I'm probably biased on this, bktrplay from bsdav is
a really good program for testing quality of bktr cards.  it's
simple and straight forward.  no filtering and it does not try to
force the frame rate (which is AFAICT where the stutter in
mplayer/mencoder comes from) but uses the signals from bktr(4)
to refresh the frames.  also, run it with -vvv from a console
and you will get useful diagnostics (actual frame rate).

fxtv is a good choice as well, since it does no filtering and
uses bktr signals for frame refresh as well, but it doesn't
have very good diagnostic output.

> 	It would seem that I have plenty of processor available

fxtv uses almost no processor, as the data is sent directly to the
video card.  bktrplay uses about 1/3 as much processor as mplayer,
even though they both use essentially the same Xv process to
display video.  there is obviously much more going on in mplayer
than just displaying data from bktr(4) via Xv.

and if you are looking for an encoding quality/performance
reference, ffmpeg is a better choice than mplayer/mencoder.

> (load 0 just before testing) and the HD I am using for the trials
> is an ATA133 dedicated for the purpose. I intend to use the capture
> board exclusively under FreeBSD.

capturing to disk will skew performance testing of bktr as well.

> 	I am wondering from the range of available bktr working
> cards, which one I should buy if I want quality. Of course, within
> an acceptable price range. Keep in mind that I do not know the
> differences amongst the cards listed below so I'll defer to your
> better judgement.
> 	From Hauppauge, I get
> - Hauppauge WinTV-GO-Plus

I believe this is a true a bktr(4) card, but I don't see the spec

> - Hauppauge WinTV-PVR150
> - Hauppauge WinTV-PVR250
> - Hauppauge WinTV-PVR350
> - Hauppauge WinTV-PVR-USB2 (I guess USB won't work heheh :)

these are not bktr(4) cards

I am very pleased with a Zoltrix Genie TV/FM, but those haven't been
manufactured in quite some time.  got mine at a second-hand computer
shop for much less than what I paid for a new ATI TV-Wonder VE, and
even though the Zoltrix is much older, it really does make a nicer

> 	Well, which one should I look for? Does the hardware mpeg
> encoding work? Is it worth it even with the amount of available
> processor power for software encoding? Does the USB one work?
> I gather that the list is ordered from cheaper to most expensive.
> Therefore, which ones should I consider?
> 	Regards,
> -- 
> Mario S F Ferreira - DF - Brazil - "I guess this is a signature."
> feature, n: a documented bug | bug, n: an undocumented feature

btw, 768x576 for NTSC?  that's not right!  max frame size from
bktr for NTSC is 640x480.  of course, mplayer/mencoder silently
"fixes" this.

<jakemsr at>

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